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Politics

Asian leaders hurl populist policy firepower ahead of elections

Incumbents in Thailand, Indonesia and India seek support with cash handouts

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, center, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi all face election tests in 2019.   © Reuters

JAKARTA/BANGKOK/NEW DELHI -- Asia's political calendar will be busy in 2019, with India and Indonesia, two of the region's largest democracies, as well as Thailand, heading to the polls. And incumbent leaders, struggling to garner support, are rolling out the pork barrels. 

Signs that handouts could become the go-to strategy for the upcoming elections were already evident in August, when Indonesian President Joko Widodo unveiled his draft budget for 2019. The plan, which has since been approved by parliament, promises to double spending on a program aimed at alleviating poverty. 

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